Split Rock - The Superior Light

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Suggested Reading

Split Rock Lighthouse
Minnesota Historical Society Press, St. Paul, MN (1986)

Lighthouse: Living in a Great Lakes Lighthouse, 1910 – 1940
Megan O’Hara (Blue Earth Books, 1998) Children’s book

Lake Superior Shipwrecks
Dr. Julius Wolff Jr. (Lake Superior Port Cities Inc. Duluth, MN, 1990)

Fitzgerald’s Storm: The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald
Dr. Joseph MacInnis (Thunder Bay Press, Holt, MI, 1998)

The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald
Frederick Stonehouse (Avery Press, AuTrain, MI)

Geology on Display: Geology and Scenery of Minnesota’s North Shore State Park
John C. Green (Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, St. Paul, MN, 1996, 2000)

Guardians of the Lights: Stories of U.S. Lighthouse Keepers
Elinor DeWire (Pineapple Press, Sarasota, FL, 1995)

Keep the Lights Burning, Abbie
Peter and Connie Roop, Illustrated by Peter E. Hanson
(Lerner Publishing, 1985) Children’s book

Split Rock, The Superior Light  relates the saga of the most visited and most photographed lighthouse on the Great Lakes. From the challenges of construction to the isolated life of the early keepers, Split Rock’s story fascinates and delights.

With the construction of Highway 61 along the Minnesota North Shore of Lake Superior, the keepers’ duties expanded from tending the light station to becoming tour guides for thousands of eager tourists. Today, forty-plus years after decommissioning by the Coast Guard, Split Rock has become one of the most-visited historic sites in Minnesota. 2010 marks the centennial celebration of this landmark on Lake Superior.

Visit the Split Rock Lighthouse website

Split Rock Lighthouse: Through the Years

1905 A November 28th gale damages 29 ships on Lake Superior.

1907 Congress appropriates $75,000 for a lighthouse and fog signal in vicinity of Stoney Point.

1909-1910 Split Rock light station is commissioned and completed. Construction of the light station takes 13 months to complete, during which lead engineer Ralph Russell Tinkham lives on site along with workers.

1910-1928 Orren “Pete” Young serves as head keeper.

1916 Elevated tramway replaces original hoisting engine and derrick.

1924 Highway 61 is completed past Split Rock Lighthouse. First tourists visit site by car.

1928-1944 Franklin J. Covell serves as head keeper.

1932 Fog signal gas engines are replaced by diesels.

1933 Lighthouse tenders make last visits to Split Rock Light Station.

1934 Tramway is dismantled. The station receives a truck to haul supplies. A second assistant is hired as the designated laborer and truck driver.

1936 Fog signal siren is converted to a diaphone (two-tone, rather than single tone).

1939 Lighthouse Service is absorbed by the U.S. Coast Guard.

1940 Split Rock receives electricity. Incandescent oil vapor lamp in lighthouse is replaced by 1,000 watt bulb. Lens rotates by electric motor, and fog signal operates by electric motor.

1942 U.S. Coast Guard is taken over by U.S. Navy for balance of World War II. Lightkeepers become Commanding Officers.

1947-1961 Robert E. Bennetts serves as the last civilian keeper.

1961 Fog signal discontinued.

1969 Split Rock Light Station is decommissioned. Site is placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

1971 Site becomes part of Split Rock Lighthouse State Park.

1975 The Edmund Fitzgerald sinks in Lake Superior; 29 hands are lost at sea.

1976 Minnesota Historical Society takes over administration of the Split Rock site.

1980 Historic site area is expanded from 7.6 acres to current 25-acre size. Restoration of the head keeper’s dwelling is completed.

1986 Visitor Center opens.

2008 The Minnesota Historical Society starts a rehabilitation project to restore the lighthouse to its 1910 appearance.

2010 Split Rock Lighthouse celebrates 100 years of serving Minnesota and Lake Superior.

Funding for this program is provided by the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. Click here for more information or visit the Minnesota Legacy website.

Clean Water, Land & Legacy Amendment